日本基督教団 The United Church of Christ in Japan

【December 2019 No.405】The Pirapo Church in Paraguay Dedicates A New Church Building


by Rev. Ehara Yukiko, Kyodan missionary

In May 2019, I arrived in Pirapo, a southern city in Paraguay, South America, to become a full-time pastor of the “Pirapo Free Methodist Church,” also known as the “Sakai Keishi Memorial Free Methodist Church.”

The church had virtually been vacant for forty years until 2015, when the Kyodan sent missionary, Rev. Chibana Sugako, as a full-time pastor. Her encounter with the church was dramatic: she met one of the congregants from the church, nothing to attribute this to other than a plan of God. Within the next four years, she purchased a piece of land and built a new church building there. I am her successor and was installed as the new, full-time pastor. On June 23rd, a new church building was dedicated with thirty-five Christians attending as witnesses from all over Paraguay and Brazil. The settlement of Japanese immigrants in Pirapo began on August 2nd, 1960.  Mr. Sakai Kotaro, a Christian employee of an NGO named JICA, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, along with his wife planted a church in Pirapo and started Sunday worship services.


Rev. Tsukamoto Minoru visited from Encarnacion Free Methodist Church to lead monthly worship services at Pirapo Church. Rev. Tsukamoto served many years in Paraguay, baptizing many Japanese immigrants. At one time, nearly twenty people attended at Pirapo Church.  Rev. Tsukamoto eventually left in the mid 80’s, and then pastors from various denominations ministered to the church. In the 90’s JICA withdrew from Paraguay. The church land had belonged to JICA, and the ownership was transferred from JICA to the city of Piparo. The church was first allowed to use the building, but in the end, had to leave. They borrowed another building, formerly a dormitory for an elementary school in the 23KM district, as their new church building. When Rev. Chibana first met them, there were only a few congregants. They were gathering on Sundays to listen to tapes of recorded sermons.


Currently we have five congregants attending the Sunday services. The small change in the population of Pirapo allows little renovation. Inviting residents to church is never easy if they have known each other for so many years. Many communal events also fall on Sundays. Congregants as communal members usually attend such events and miss out on Sunday services.


Among the three Japanese Free Methodist churches in Paraguay, the church in Asuncion, which is in the capital of Paraguay, has been preparing to incorporate these three churches as affiliates of the Brazil Free Methodist Church organization. The Pirapo Church is reluctant to become an affiliate. Instead, they are on the verge of taking a new step toward independence. The process of becoming an institutionalized as a religious corporation will be another challenge.


Yguazu is another city founded by Japanese immigrants with a small Christian population. Once they met for worship at a Christian family’s home, but the family returned to Japan, and they had not been able to meet since then. I visited them in September, and we held a worship service there. Riding a bus from Pirapo to Yguazu for over three hours, I finally arrived around noon. We had lunch together, followed by a worship service. We enjoyed our fellowship and tea. I stayed overnight, and we had dinner together. We hope to meet regularly for monthly worship services. For Christmas and Easter, they will be invited to Pirapo Church for a joint worship service with communion. Please keep the Pirapo Church in your prayers.(Tr. DB)







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